As the sevens campaign continues apace, the race for both the Series title and Olympic qualification is taking shape.
New Zealand reigned supreme in the men’s and women’s tournaments at the Sydney Sevens a week ago to consolidate their place at the top of both standings.
The All Blacks Sevens are also top of the pile, having played five of 11 men’s tournaments, and their first gold medal of the season has enabled them to open up a nine-point cushion on beaten Cup finalists South Africa.
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Of course, the title is not the only prize on offer in 2023 and results in Sydney have had an equally telling impact on the race for the top four, and a place at the Paris 2024 Olympics in France.
Below we recap what the weekend’s events at Allianz Stadium mean for the season ahead.
Following runners-up finishes in Cape Town and Hamilton, it proved to be third time lucky for the All Blacks Sevens as they won their first gold medal of the 2023 Series.
With six tournaments to play, victory gives the All Blacks Sevens an impressive lead at the top of the standings.
The All Blacks Sevens are the fifth different men’s gold medallists in five tournaments and their nine-point advantage over the Blitzboks is far from unassailable with more than half the season to go.
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Similarly, their grip on Olympic qualification is not as tight as it may first appear. The teams that finish in the top four of both the men’s and women’s 2023 Series will take their place at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
However, with hosts France, already assured to play at their home Games, currently fourth in the standings, the ticket would transfer to the fifth-placed team.
As it stands in the men’s table, that team is Fiji following five events, with Ben Gollings’ side tied on 67 points with sixth-placed Argentina. That 18-point gap could narrow significantly were the All Blacks Sevens to suffer a loss of form in Los Angeles next month.
The competitive nature of the 2023 men’s Series was highlighted in Sydney as the USA dropped from second to seventh on the back of their ninth-place semi-final defeat to Los Pumas Sevens, the winners a week earlier in Hamilton.
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With a maximum 132 points on offer across the remaining six men’s tournaments of the Series, only 10 points separate Samoa in third from ninth-placed Ireland, who continue to put distance between them and the teams below.
A podium finish from Ireland, Australia or the USA in Los Angeles would catapult them right back into contention not only for Olympics qualification but the overall title as well.
At the other end of the standings, Japan find themselves as the lowest-ranked core team, 18 points adrift of Uruguay (24 points), who occupy 11th place and potential safety.
Whichever core team finishes lowest in the 2023 Series will be relegated to the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series 2024, while those ranked 12th to 14th will compete against the Challenger Series 2023 winner for the 12th and final position on the 2024 Series.
Kenya (21 points), Spain (18) and Canada (14) are also in danger of losing their core team status with six tournaments to play.